Home > Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(15)

Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(15)
Author: Kresley Cole

Exhaling a breath, I knelt beside the pups. Their own blood matted their fur. They needed a vet to patch them up. Call me, Dad!

“Come here, little guys.” I examined them as best as I could, assessing their wounds. I thought they would live, but muscles had been severed, their skin slashed open. One’s face was clawed up. The runt would be half-blind. “Guess I’ll call you Cyclops, huh?”

My own eyes watered, and I tumbled back on my ass. Two wolves dead on my watch, and three pups injured. The pack had been decimated. Not to mention all the other animals.

The pups licked my bleeding wound, their way of showing care. “I appreciate the gesture, little guys, but I’ll be okay. Come on, let’s get you out of here.” I wanted them away from their dead sire and dam.

I picked up the three and headed toward an empty pen. “Here we go.” I gently set them down, then locked them in, steeling myself when they whimpered in panic. “I’ve gotta check on everybody. I’ll be back soon.”

I hurried past the fourth wall of enclosures. We’d lost more animals, but every other injury could keep for now.

The wolves would get priority. I would clean their wounds and administer a sedative/painkiller. As I headed to the supply room, I pulled my phone out, trying Dad again.

He was going to be so disappointed by all this. He made a habit of underpromising and overdelivering with the boss.

Still no answer? Panic bubbled up. No, no, Dad was just out of a service area. Between towers.

Calm yo tits, Lark. He would never abandon me.

I shoved my phone back into my pocket. Tonight was going to be a long one.

Damn it, how had I ended up in this situation? I’d barely believed it when Dad had sold his practice and taken this job. Granted, his ginormous salary wasn’t exactly chicken feed, but I’d had a life: school, friends, my training business. I’d had to give up everything because of Mr. Deth.

Dad genuinely liked the dude. He’d told me he’d never met a smarter—or lonelier—man.

I could see both. The boss had never had a visitor out to this isolated compound. The only calls he got were about supply shipments. If his phone rang, he never glanced down at a number and smiled as he answered. In fact, I’d never seen him smile at all.

His solitude had confused me. He was rich and hot, tall with a great body, and he had this really cool accent. Latvian or something. Which explained the weird-ass last name.

I’d told him once, “Your name sounds like death, as in dying.”

His face had been completely expressionless as he’d said, “Does it, then?”

I’d wondered why he was alone—until he’d hinted that the Big One was coming. He was fortifying his mountain compound for some catastrophe.

Everything had begun to make sense. He’s a crazycakes prepper. His insanity had kept him from finding friends or a girlfriend. He probably had a germ phobia too; dude wore gloves at all times.

I turned the corner—and almost ran into him. My breath strangling in my throat, I craned my head up to meet his gaze. “You scared me!” I was as nervous as a cat on hot bricks. “Uh, what’s shaking, Boss?”

“We must return to the castle. A storm is coming.”

Weird. “I’ll be there in a sec. There’s been a little, uh, situation”—bloodbath—“with the animals.” How was I going to worm my way out of this?

“Yes, I scent the blood and death. But that doesn’t matter. We return. Now.” He grabbed my elbow, startling me.

“Um, the cougars aren’t totally secured. And there’re some injuries that need tending.” My little wolves . . .

“Later.” He steered me toward the exit.

Outside, a hot wind blew, so different from the cool breezes we normally got up here. Then I nearly stumbled. The sky was alight with gorgeous streams of color. Even the boss paused, staring up at the sight.

My concern for the animals faded as I lost myself in those lights. I murmured, “God, they’re so beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” He started dragging me to the castle. “Remember: beautiful means we must turn away.”

But I couldn’t! I never wanted to turn away. “I need to look at them a little while longer. Please, Boss!”

He forced me inside. I was tempted to slip past him for another peek, but he pressed some buttons on a wall keypad.

Whirring sounded all around us. It took a moment to register—he was closing the shutters over the windows and the doors! How would I get out? “Why are you battening down? I have to go check on the animals as soon as possible.”

“The menagerie will be protected against whatever approaches.”

The little hairs on my nape rose. “What’s approaching?”

“A catastrophe.”

Crazycakes! “Like the Big One?” My situation grew brutally clear. I was trapped in a mountaintop fortress with a madman. “Uh, I really need to get in touch with my dad.”

“Be my guest.” He waved one gloved hand. “Tell him to turn away from the light and seek immediate shelter.”

I yanked out my phone, hitting redial. Pick up, Dad, please pick up! Voice mail. Dialed him again.

I’d just stowed my phone when my vision dimmed—and dimmed some more—until I couldn’t see at all. “Oh, God, what’s happening??” I blinked over and over. Suddenly, I could see again from within the menagerie. I cried, “What is going on?” Across the central pen, I caught sight of the pups. The three were growing before my eyes, their wounds healing over and scarring.

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